One of the best ways to dazzle up the dreary season is to plant a Witchhazel in your garden.
Also known as a Hamamelis by horticulturists, these interesting small trees belong to the Hamamelidaceae family of plants and share some characteristics with other plants like Corylopsis and Fothergilla.
Witchhazels are often multi-trunked and vase-shaped, narrow at the base and widening on top. The deciduous leaves are mid-green in colour, ridged in appearance and turn colourful hues of golden-yellow, orange and maroon in autumn. However, a Witchhazel’s most interesting feature is its habit of flowering on bare branches in the middle of winter (usually January and February in Vancouver). The flowers are delicate, dainty, and almost crinkled in texture and spider-like in shape. The blooms vary in size from half to two inches in size and last for several weeks. Flower colour depends on variety, but ranges from pale or vibrant yellow, to coppery-orange or red. For even more interest, the flowers are fragrant – proving a healthy, but subtle fragrance at an otherwise unexciting time of year in the garden.
There are several common varieties of Witchazel that are readily available at Art’s Nursery. These include:
An upright large shrub or small tree with very fragrant golden-yellow flowers that are borne on bare branches in the winter. Leaves are green and downy underneath before turning deep golden yellow in autumn. Grows to 10-15ft. Hardy in zones 4-9.
Arnolds Promise Witchhazel
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnolds Promise’
A lovely Witchhazel variety known for its outstanding fall foliage and large, fragrant bright yellow flowers that appear in winter. Tends to flower early and heavily. Its yellow flowers are amongst the brightest in the group. Grows 10-20ft. Hardy in zones 5-8
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Primavera’
A Witchhazel grown for its abundant canary-yellow scented flowers that are red at the base. One of the earliest varieties of Witchhazel to flower. Also provides a nice yellow fall foliage colour. Grows to 15ft.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’
One of the most beautiful witchhazels, Jelena features orangey-red fall foliage colours and coppery-orange fragrant blooms in winter. Petals are red at the base and grade to orange-yellow at the tips. Grows 10-20ft in height. Slightly wider growth habit than many other Witchhazels. Hardy in zones 5-8
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’
Diane is one of the best red, almost crimson, flowering witchhazels. Like the others mentioned here, it flowers in winter and features large leaves that turn striking shades of red, orange and yellow in fall. Height: 10-20ft. Hardy in zones 5-8
To grow a Witchhazel, plant them in moist, but well drained, slightly acidic soils rich in organic matter. They prefer full sun but will tolerate light shade. They will tolerate many garden conditions except for areas of extreme heat or heavy alkaline soils. Hardy to Zone 5. For best landscape effect, site them in location visible from the house in fall and winter or in an area where the perfumed flowers can be experienced during the winter. Plant them in front of dark or solid backdrops like large evergreens to create visual contrast.
As a group, Witchhazels are excellent ornamental trees for smaller yards and offer up multiple seasons of interest; notably, colourful fall foliage and fragrant winter blooming flowers.
You can see them blooming yourself in January or February depending on the weather. Contact us at 604.882.1201 or visit Art’s Nursery in person for more information about these wonderful small trees.